Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Runemarks, by Joanne Harris

"This is a WOW-this-book-is-so-amazing-that-if-they-made-it-into-a-movie-it-would-win-an-Oscar-for-sure book. Runemarks has so many twists and turns it will keep you on the edge of your seat."---Chicago Tribune

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Runemarks is, without a doubt, the most enjoyable book I've read in a while. Jam-packed with exicitement, life lessons, inner battles, and more than enough surprises, Runemarks has a subtle theme of what true family really is, and where one's loyalties ought to lie in the mortal world.
Despite the fact that this novel focuses more on Norse mythology than any religions followed nowadays, I still think that there are lessons worth learning hidden within the words.
Here's the statement on the back cover.

In Maddy Smith's world, Order rules. Chaos, old gods, Faeries, goblins, magic, glamours--all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. The "ruinmark" she was born with on her palm proves it--and makes the other villagers fearful that she is a witch.
But the mysterious traveler One-Eye sees Maddy's mark not as a defect but as a destiny. And Maddy will need every scrap that One-Eye can teach her about runes, cantrips, and glamours--every ounce of magic she can command--if she is to survive that destiny.
That statement does an amazing job of keeping the reader guessing. It doesn't give any of the main plot away, yet it is still relevant to the storyline.

Here are some facts about the book in general.
527 pages
Third-person POV (though it switches from person to person in every chapter)
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
The author is from England (seriously, almost every book I read by a British author is amazing. The Stoneheart Trilogy by Charlie Fletcher, anyone?)
Has a list of characters and a guide to the 'Runes of the Elder Script'
Link to Runemark's Amazon Page

Right, so. Pros and cons. There were some of both, though I must admit more pros--like, nearly the whole book was a pro. There were a few minor cons.

~ ~ ~

- None of the characters are who they seem; throughout the novel, I was constantly being surprised by all of the characters, even the minor ones.
- The POV (point of view) switches from character to character, which I enjoy in any book.
- There's something for everyone in the book. For action-adventure readers, there's plenty of excitement and battles. For fantasy readers, the book contains goblins, gods, and magic. For science-fiction readers, there are a few rifts between different worlds.
- Almost everything else is a pro. Great vocabulary, vivid images painted with words, and no inconsistencies or mistakes that I could see.

- The ending left a lot to be desired. It was kind of...mixed emotions for me. A few characters (they may have been good, they may have been bad, but I didn't see any reason for one or two of the deaths) died, for what seemed to be no reason. It was also slightly confusing, and left me wondering what would happen to the main character afterwards. All in all, I didn't really like the ending.
- There was some mild swearing throughout the book. Nothing too strong, but it was an issue for me at times. Eventually I just skipped over them; believe me, it was well worth it.
- There was some violence. Nothing too graphic, although one or two things made me squirm a little. Seriously though, nothing too bad.
- Throughout the book, I had to double-check a few things due to my confusion. This might or might not be an issue for the rest of you.

~ ~ ~

Despite that, I greatly enjoyed the novel. Want proof?

Well, let's see. The last book I stayed up late reading at night was...either the Codebearers series by the Miller Brothers, the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, or The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville. ((See? It's been so long since I stayed up late reading anything, I can't even remember which book it was.))

And I stayed up late last night reading Runemarks. I would have stayed up until midnight if I could, but my mom made me go to bed. Curses. Oh, well, that meant I got to finish it this morning. And I had dreams about the book last night, so that's a plus.

All of the characters were written well, with third-demensional personalities and backgrounds. It's almost too hard to choose my top three favorites, but if I had to, it would probably be these three.

One-Eye - A Wanderer, Outlander, and Journeyman (as he is called by people who do not know him) who takes Maddy Smith under his wing for very important reasons (nope, not telling; read the book). ~
- One who is not what he seems. Throughout the book, Maddy struggles to figure out whether Lucky is trustworthy--or untrustworthy. She has good reason to wonder.
- Sugar, as he is commonly known, is a goblin. He appears throughout the book, and is probably one of the funniest characters. Maddy catches him in the cellar, about to escape through his burrow. After that, they keep running into each other.
If you're someone who knows me well--extremely well (bookwise, anyway)--you probably predicted that those characters would be my favorites. Even if you haven't read the book, those sorts of characters are the kinds I like. Ones who are rugged and bold, ones who are often untrustworthy and fight with inner demons, and the 'class clowns' of the novels.

Hmm...if it is made into a movie, I'm definitely going to try out for...well, the only character I'd fit the description of is Maddy, so probably her. Or I could be the
screenwriter and I'd get to be on set with the actors and other people anyway! And it would be epic if Viggo Mortensen played One-Eye, and Sean Bean played Lucky. And then after that, maybe I could find some way to get my fantasy trilogy made into a movie, and Viggo Mortensen could play Keallan, and Sean Bean would play Ingvar...! Major awesomeness overload. *dies*

...yeah, yeah, I know, my daydreams get away with me sometimes. Your point being?

Anyway. If you're someone who didn't bother reading through this whole post (I know who you are, and I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE! *evil laugh*), I'll sum it all up.

Runemarks is an intriguing, rollicking tale with believable characters and an engaging plot. The ending leaves something to be desired, but do not let that deter you.
If you haven't read it yet, go to your nearest bookstore/library/online store and get a copy. I'm serious.

Overall, I give Runemarks 4.5 stars. If I had been more satisfied with the ending, it would definitely have been 5 stars.

Here's the trailer.


  1. I've read this book. The cover was different than my version, though.

  2. Really? I'm actually shocked to have found someone else who has read it.

    Yeah, there's two different cover versions. One's the one I have above, and I think the other is a red cover, with a goblin on the front of it...maybe I'll put a picture of both covers on the review...

  3. Yeah. I thought it was an older book, but I guess it isn't.

  4. Well, it's a couple years old at least...the sequel came out in 2011, and people had been waiting three years for the 2008.

  5. I have read the Stoneheart Trilogy's first two books. And I'm reading the third.

  6. Cool! The Stoneheart Trilogy is a really good series.